A conversation between BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and actor EDWARD NORTON gave an adoring Toronto crowd a rare intimate look at the rock legend earlier today.

Hundreds of diehard fans packed an auditorium to listen to the roughly hour long discussion — held as part of THE TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL — which touched on BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’S music, politics, children and relentless work ethic.

That unwavering drive contributed to the tumultuous conditions behind the making of his fourth album, which is captured in THE PROMISE: THE MAKING OF DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN, a new documentary that had its gala premiere Tuesday night at the festival.

BRUCE said that from the beginning, he and THE E STREET BAND were overtaken with the ambition to be more than just another rock group.

“We wanted to be important,” BRUCE stated.

“We came out of a little town and we wanted people to hear our voices. There was no modesty involved.”

The reception BRUCE received was anything but sedate. He was feted with a standing ovation upon his arrival and departure from the theatre. Outside dozens of fans lined up for the chance to fill any seats left vacant by ticket holders.

Still others tried to ply the sought after passes away from those en route to the theatre — with one woman holding a sign that read: “I will pay $300 for a ticket to Bruce Springsteen.”

EDWARD NORTON and BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN sat on the short stage inside a small movie theatre, both clad in black button down shirts, jeans and black leather shoes.

“We should explain to them how long it took us to figure these outfits out,” BRUCE cracked.

The wide ranging dual dialogue was peppered with insights into BRUCE’S music and life, some of which were of a personal nature — for instance, BRUCE talked about spending part of his 20s living inside a factory where surfboards were manufactured.

The film also showcases plenty of revealing moments.

Helmed by EMMY winning director Thom Zimny, the documentary illustrated the arduous process behind the recording of BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’S 1978 classic DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN.

Composed of black and white archival footage captured in the studio between 1976 – 1978 intercut with present day interviews, DARKNESS features an in depth look at the album that set much of BRUCE’S career in motion.

He struggled with the success of 1975’s BORN TO RUN, which went platinum six times. He wasn’t sure how a newly crowned rock king could write the sort of gritty, working class tales on which he had made a name for himself. And those closest to him began to look at him differently.

“You’re a mutant in your neighbourhood,” he recalled.

“The best thing you can do is forget about it…But it does make you unusual. No one knows anyone else who has money — they know you.”

But BRUCE didn’t actually have much money. The film makes clear that he was millions of dollars in debt, while he was also embroiled in a legal war with his former manager (and close friend) Mike Appel that was essentially precluding him from moving forward in his career.

“I had my first taste of success and I think you realize it’s possible for your identity to get co opted,” he told ED.

“I decided that the key to that was maintaining a sense of myself, understanding a part of myself had been mutated. The world gobbles you up very quickly. There was a thrust of self preservation more than anything else.”

He had released his first three albums in under three years — less than 32 months, in fact — but another three years passed before BRUCE would release DARKNESS ON THE EDGE OF TOWN.

In the meantime, the band agonized over the 10 tracks that would eventually appear on DARKNESS, with the singer admitting Tuesday he spent that period filling dozens of notebooks with alternate lyrics and writing scads of material that would never make the album.

The documentary also provides perspective on just how many songs he tossed away, some of which his bandmates claimed were brilliant — in fact, E STREET guitarist STEVEN VAN ZANDT said BRUCE could have gone down as a never to be forgotten pop songwriter of the century if he had been interested.

In the movie, BRUCE refers to his obsessive compulsive nature and said he was messianic in his approach to recording the album.

“I was a dangerous man.”

But BRUCE also said in Toronto that he was “in search of a purposeful work life.”

He doesn’t regret working so diligently on the record.

“The way we did it was so hard we often thought we were doing it wrong. But I look back and I think we weren’t doing it wrong. We were just doing it the only way we knew how.”

BRUCE commented that he felt no one was singing songs about working class people like his family and friends.

“I had a story and I wanted to tell it.”

Over the course of the chat, BRUCE touched on a variety of his influences, which spread across several disciplines — FLANNERY O’CONNOR, films like MEAN STREETS, THE BEACH BOYS, BOB DYLAN, JAMES BROWN and ELVIS.

ED asked him if he was influenced by beat poets like Allen Ginsberg.

“No,” BRUCE replied.

“If I was ever bohemian, it was by circumstance.”

He still listens to music now, tossing out the names of a few bands he likes (some of whom he’s seen live along with his kids): The Gaslight Anthem, The Dropkick Murphys, Against Me, Bad Religion and Pete Molinari.

“If you’re good, you’re always looking over your shoulder. It’s the gun slinging life. Yes, you are very fast, my friend. But there’s some kid in a garage and about ten minutes from now…”

Many of the session’s moments of levity came out of the interplay between BRUCE and ED.

While ED spoke about BRUCE’S music with the grand passion of an aficionado, the two have actually been friends for more than a decade.

“He’s given me good advice over the years,” ED said, adding that they’d chatted about life, work and women.

“Anyone else need a hand?” BRUCE queried.

“I’m giving out romantic advice backstage after the show.”

At one point, ED read BRUCE an excerpt from WALT WHITMAN’S LEAVES OF GRASS as a prelude to a somewhat confusing question.

BRUCE did his best to reply, then added with a laugh: “I’m not actually entirely sure what he meant in that phrase. You’d have to read it again. I’m making it up as I go along.”

But he ended the discussion on a serious note, bringing the topic back to DARKNESS — the album he said set him on a path he’s followed the rest of his career.

“It was the beginning of a long narrative…a long conversation I’ve had with my fans that’s been one of the most valuable things in my life.”

“I appreciate you tremendously.”

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